When I went back to church for the first time after coming back from Thailand, I was really confused. We were worshiping Jesus, the Majestic, Glorious, Splendid King. And of course He is all of those things. I knew that, but I wasn’t prepared for it to strike me as odd.
I had just come from watching Jesus be the humble, sweet, gentle servant. The last few worship services I had been to were in safe houses, where I listened to the women wail out praise to Jesus their Savior. They were crying. They were bawling loudly and completely out-of-tune. In one house, the two worship leaders wore shirts that read, “Amarican Style Burger–Eat me” to honor their American guests. I mean, how much sweeter can you get?
In a land so broken, so dark, so wicked, and so oppressive, there was sweet Jesus, content to kneel down, cup the faces of the broken in His own broken hands, and hold their gaze. He was there collecting their tears; He was there welcoming them back when they ran back to “the life” then wanted out again; He was there rocking them through addictions; He was there breathing life into dry bones and raising beauty out of ashes. As one woman said, “The community sees us as worthless, but God sees us as precious.”
At church back home, we got to sing with a whole mass of people to the accompaniment of an awesome worship band, in a building with great acoustics and beautiful architecture. But when the songs died down and the sermon ended, it would be easy to go home and get back to life as we knew it with work and chores and family and stuff. Not necessarily forgetting Jesus, just being distracted. But Jesus is not like us. His faithfulness is not fickle. He is there with those women after the soundtrack has faded out, when it is not convenient, when there is no one watching to give Him praise, and when it is no longer glamorous to serve.
So when I came back and we were worshiping Jesus as the Most High, you can see how it just took me slightly off guard. It’s like working side by side your best friend in the ER wearing bloody scrubs together amidst the chaos and wounds of the night and then the next night hearing a familiar voice on the TV, and, looking over, you see your friend there all polished up giving the State of the Union address. Like, “Wait–you’re the president too? Hold on.” So when we started singing this song, I just lost it a little. Oh, my God.
We visited 4 safe houses total, but heard from partners from all over the world who run similar programs. We learned about the methods of outreach and toured the facilities to see where the women were making jewelry, decorating cakes, running cafes, baking goods, and learning other skills to establish sustainability. We met and got chances to talk with and pray over the women. From some, we heard the stories of their extreme woundedness of being prostituted and abused and how God met them in those places and then brought them out and restored them.
At one of the safe houses, a little girl named Foo latched onto me. I’m guessing she was about 10-12 years old. She took me by the hand and showed me around the building and out onto a balcony, overlooking the garden. We couldn’t talk to each other, so we just stood there gazing out at the yard and smiling at each other. Then she brought me outside and led me down a path shaded by a large arbor delicately laced in vines. “Grape” she said to me and lifted the vine to let me examine it. She wrapped my arm around her and led me through to the backyard, pointing to a fountain, sword-fighting me with a branch, and leading me to her “house”, where she brought out to me the jewelry she was making.
This safe house housed children rescued from trafficking as well as those who would be at-risk of trafficking to give them an education instead. I wondered, as I often do, how people could possibly have it in them to harm, to destroy, a child like sweet Foo. I wonder still how broken one’s view of the world and their self would have to be to embrace that level of evil. At this point, my wonder usually turns into anger. And then I start thinking of what I could do with a Samurai sword to all those men in the red light districts and then I see that the depravity is in me too.
But the Lord has not abandoned me to it. And as angry as I get at the perpetrators and as much as I now see the justice of God’s wrath, I am also reminded that if any of those perpetrators would come to the Lord, turn from the destruction, and ask for forgiveness, He would give it. He would raise them up out of the ashes too, calling them “Son”, and never again holding their past over them. I’m not suggesting they wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of the injustices they practiced, only that He would be willing to redeem them too from the inside out, without question and without guilt.
He did the same for me. He would do the same for you. That is the sweet, humble, glorious One.
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings…